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Baseball is Back: MLB and MLBPA Reach Agreement

by Jordan Lazowski

It’s been quite a ride, baseball fans. A few weeks ago, I started writing this article at around 12 AM CT, thinking that all of the details from Bob Nightengale meant a deal was truly coming in the 11th hour at the first MLB-imposed deadline. Instead, we got nothing except a week of cancellation of games.

Now, a few weeks of additional agony later, we have a deal. It will span over the next five seasons before we get to do this joyous process all over again. But, for now, we are done. Despite the original cancellation of some games, it appears that the season will be a full 162 games in 2022 with full nine-inning doubleheaders helping the league reach that goal.

Here are the details we have so far on the CBA.

Key Negotiation Points

Before even getting into the details of the agreement itself, you might be wondering: “What were the MLBPA and MLB arguing over anyway?” Here are some of the key discussion points throughout negotiations:

  1. Expanded Playoffs
  2. Increased League Minimum Salary
  3. Collective Bargaining Tax Thresholds/Penalties
  4. Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool for Players on Rookie Contracts
  5. A solution to “tanking” with constantly non-competitive teams
  6. A solution to service time manipulation

Other key negotiation points included an International Draft and an MLB June Draft Lottery. Each of these points and more would be discussed and resolved with the signing of the new CBA. However, if you’re wondering why the owners and players had so much back-and-forth over the past few months, it’s because of these six areas primarily.


Obviously, you know most of this timeline. Once the previous (CBA) expired in early December, the original Free Agent frenzy came to a screeching halt. MLB and the MLBPA did not talk for 40+ days following the beginning of the owner-instituted lockout, and slowly, negotiations began to take place.

A few weeks ago, the players and owners met for nine straight days in Jupiter, FL, to try and come to a resolution. We all remember the final night, during which we all stayed up until 2 AM, only to receive the news that it was false hope we had been given. There would be no deal, and the first week of games would be canceled. The two sides continued to talk, however, after a bizarre Manfred press conference.

As it became clear that each Tuesday, the league would likely cancel another week of games to start the season, each Tuesday became more important to fans. Evan Drellich of The Athletic was the first to tweet out the following proposal:

I encourage you to read this thread to get a sense of where the current agreement came from. This was the true base for the deal that was eventually accepted.

Now, let’s get into the details of the deal.

(Some of) The Final Details

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of everything that’s going into the CBA – we will get more details as they become available. However, as it relates to the main sticking points above, here’s what we know:

Expanded Playoffs

After going back and forth for quite some time between 12 and 14 teams in the expanded playoffs, the league and union eventually settled on 12 games. This was reportedly a major sticking point for the players, and in the end, they got the number they were hoping to.

In return, the owners get an expanded TV deal with ESPN for exclusive rights to the new playoff series that will likely be created with these expanded playoffs. Additionally, when baseball eventually expands to add two new teams, MLB and the MLBPA will likely look to expand the playoffs to 14 teams at that time. The players earn a bargaining chip at a later date as well as a result.

Increased League Minimum Salary

The sides went back-and-forth for quite some time on this, but it was clearly a main negotiation piece for the players. At around $560K in the previous CBA, MLB’s minimum salary was the lowest of the four major sports, about $150K lower than the NFL at $705K – which ranks third among the four major sports.

After many rounds of counterproposals, the sides met near $700K, where many assumed they would land. Here’s the structure breakdown over the five years of the CBA:

Collective Bargaining Tax Thresholds/Penalties

As highlighted above, the collective bargaining or luxury tax will begin at $230 million and eventually reach $244 million. However, this is not without further penalties for teams that exceed these thresholds, as a new penalty was introduced that…

Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool for Players on Rookie Contracts

This was a brand new revenue source for players that were added to the CBA this cycle. This was meant to directly help those players early on who well-outperform their league minimums but rarely see significant increases in pay until they are eligible for arbitration. Now, these players will receive bonuses from a collective pool of $50 million. It is not yet revealed how the money will be divided, as the proposals between MLB and the Players’ Union changed the criteria regularly.

Other Interesting Notes

International Draft

What ended up being something that was really only ever mentioned in passing ended up being one of the biggest roadblocks as we headed down the road towards a final deal. It was reported that the MLB Owners presented an International Draft to the players, in exchange for the removal of the Qualifying Offer for Free Agents. While, on paper, this seemed like a good deal for the players, as it would result in an estimated $13M-$16M in increased international spending, many players immediately came out against the idea of an International Draft, which led to the delay of two more series of games on Tuesday, March 9. It was reported Wednesday morning, however, that the two sides had reached an agreement: the MLBPA and MLB would have until July 25 to reach a deal on the International Draft. If by then, they agreed to a draft, it would be instituted in 2024 and the Qualifying Offer would be removed. If they don’t come to an agreement, then the Qualifying Offer and current international system will remain in place as is. This was the largest hurdle to clear as negotiations came to a close, but was certainly not one of the main factors early on in the months-long negotiations.

2018 Union Grievance

Here’s something we learned about during negotiations in early March: in 2018, the MLB Players’ Association filed a grievance against the Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, Oakland A’s, and Pittsburgh Pirates for failing to spend its revenue-sharing money. This grievance has not been processed yet, shockingly, but was suggested to be a part of the negotiations. Originally, the players turned this down. However, at the last minute, the owners brought it back into the CBA. The fact that this unheard-of grievance exists was new information for fans. Multiple reports from Stephanie Apstein and Jon Heyman indicate that this grievance was not dropped by the Players’ Association.

2020 Union Grievance

Today, MLB also requested that the Players’ Association drop its $500 million 2020 lawsuit against the league. While the players did not drop the 2018 grievance against the league, Stephanie Apstein’s report above indicates that they did indeed drop this grievance.

By multiple reports, the resumption of activities as soon as tomorrow now means we’re 28 days away from the currently scheduled April 7th Opening Day. The current schedules available online haven’t reflected the change, though we will keep a close eye on how games are planned.

Obviously, this is still a very fluid situation so we will continue to update this article periodically as we learn additional information. Until then, be sure to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for updates!

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